Poultry Manure Vermicomposting

For quite some time now I`ve been wanting to try feeding poultry manure to composting worms. It`s a tricky material – not nearly as worm-friendly as something like aged horse manure, for example – but I still think there is a lot of potential for using it as a worm food.

While I don`t think pigeons are technically “poultry” (lol), I was able to secure some pigeon manure recently, and it looks very similar to the chicken manure I`ve seen in the past. So it`s what I`ll be using initially.

Some of the challenges with poultry manure:

  • It is a very dry manure – it definitely needs to be well-hydrated before use.
  • It can have high salt levels, which can be harmful to worms.
  • It is rich in nitrogen and has a very high potential for ammonia release – also really dangerous for worms.

The first thing I did with my bag of pigeon manure was to pour some water through it. My hope is that this will help to lower the salt content a fair bit.

Then I dumped it out in a tub and watered it down some more (moisture was actually not very well distributed after my bag watering session).

Next I removed some of the manure from the upper zone (presumably this will be fairly well leached stuff) and placed a small amount of it at the top of an open air horse manure worm bin I have going in my basement. I then gently moistened a bit more for good measure.

Lastly, I added a plastic bag over top to help retain moisture.

Now I’ll just keep an eye on it to see how long it takes before worms start feeding on it.
My hunch is that it may take some time, since this was reasonably fresh stuff.

I will likely mix the rest of the manure with some shredded cardboard and test in an outdoor bed.

I’m really interested to see how things turn out!
Stay tuned.

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    • Barb
    • April 10, 2015

    I’d love to hear the backstory on how you acquired pigeon manure!

  1. Fyi, that looks nothing like the manure I get from my chickens?
    No straw (or did you mix that in?), almost white,
    very solid / heavy.

    • Bentley
    • April 11, 2015

    Barb – Interestingly enough, the person who owns the horse stable where I get my aged horse manure (and associated ecosystem – wink, wink) happens to raise carrier pigeons!

    Dave – that`s a great point. Thanks for bringing it up. The manure was indeed mixed with quite a lot of straw (think it sits on the floor of the pigeon shed and just basically catches the droppings), so that will obviously help.

  2. I’m sure someone will keep hens near you Bentley? You just need
    to ask a few more people.
    (Really interested, ‘cos I have 8 hens, lots of droppings
    and a bit worried about feeding ‘raw’, even old
    droppings into the (outside) bins.)

    • Bentley
    • April 11, 2015

    Will be pretty well the exact same methodology, Dave. Mix with LOTS of bedding, soak/drain really well, age for awhile in separate system, then test in moderation!
    But yes I will definitely see about getting some `real` poultry manure – haha!

  3. Bedding – assume cardboard etc (where do you get it all from :-))
    Ok, I’ll try it and report back.
    How long to ‘age’ it? 6 months or a few weeks? Or (I guess)
    the longer the better.


    • Bentley
    • April 11, 2015

    The straw will work really well if you can get some of that. But the usual shredded newsprint and/or shredded corrugated cardboard would be great as well. Not sure about UK, but here they offer a lot of boxes at grocery (etc) stores as an alternative to plastic bags, so that`s usually where my cardboard comes from. If you can also mix in some compost-like (`living`) material that would definitely help. Here is a link to that guide, for the benefit of those who don`t know about it:

    If you can get enough heaped up to get some good heating (ie composting) going, I would think it could be “ready” in a matter of weeks. All ammonia smells should be gone by time you use – and regardless, start by testing small amounts (as I am in this experiment).

    Look forward to your results!

    • Steve
    • April 18, 2015

    Oh dear god! Why would you ever willingly subject yourself to pigeon manure!? It’s terrible stuff! But I’m biased because I still have nightmares of my high rise window washing days trying to scrape that stuff off of awnings. Blegh…

    In all seriousness though, if it’s dry, it is very harmful to your lungs. Take every precaution especially if you’re working with it indoors. It is some very nasty stuff and a proper respirator should be used if there’s any chance of you breathing it in.

    • joe
    • April 22, 2015

    Hey Bentley, I think you are doing a good job. My opinion is bird manure is bird manure. I’ve handled pigeons before, not a problem. The way you are doing this is going to have the same results as chicken manure. You’ll be fine.

  4. Pretty sure that a bacterial culture would take care of the ammonia levels. EM1 for example, or one that you make yourself is used to combat agricultural odors caused by ammonia in livestock urine. Not so sure about the salts. I have had success with using EM1 to remove sewage odors when our drains backed up. It makes it smell like homemade beer.

  5. Sorry Paul, EM1? Wozzat please? Anything more generic,
    or a household substitute we might use?

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